the truth about Black fathers

They would have you believe this—that Black fathers make the babies and leave the mamas and disappear like the wind, sans a care in the world about their wake’s effect. Oh, be clear: there are those who fit the bill. Hearts weep—souls wail in their absence. The scars, ugly, run deep.

But this is only part of the story. Rather, it is not the story—not our sole tale to tell. So many more Black fathers square the shoulders and extend the arms and open their hearts and do what is natural and right and beautiful: they love. Hard. Long. Sweetly. Sternly. Thoughtfully.


I am a witness. My testimony begins in the dark basement of an orphanage, in a crib, where, in a very precise moment, eyes locked and fingers touched and hearts connected, cemented by a man’s desire to father a girlchild and a daughter’s need for a forever family. It did not matter that my mother did not carry me in her womb. It did not matter that my father did not sow this particular seed. I was his. He was mine. The Heavens deemed this so.

My father’s love is all-at-once regular and extraordinary—average and heroic. For starters, he was there. He protected us—physically, financially, emotionally, mentally. He worked the overnight shift and hustled side jobs so that we had a roof over our heads and food on the table and food on our backs and everything we needed and a few things we wanted, too. He saw to it that we got educated—this man who grew up in the segregated south, where separate and vastly unequal was the law of the land and a solid education was not an option for brown babies like him. He doled out discipline in healthy doses—with great love and the profound knowledge that setting my brother and me straight would go a long way in helping us become better human beings.

It was he who convinced me to write and he who, to this day, I call first when I get another book deal or a story in a national magazine. He keeps all my books and clips on a special shelf in his home—shows them off to family and friends. He is proud of me. Even at 46 years old, I never tire of seeing his chest stick out just a little bit more when he speaks of my work—never tire of him responding to my news of good fortune by saying, “Wow! That’s great, doll!”

All of these things my father gave so freely, against the odds. Still does. mahogany father's day cards

They are love.

It’s the same kind of love that I see in my own home, with my husband, whose love for and dedication to our daughters and son is so strong, so incredible, so dedicated, so bright, it rivals a thousand stars.

It’s the same kind of love I see out on the soccer fields on Saturdays, where little brown girls push the ball up the grass and toward the goal, the wind and their fathers’ cheers at their backs.

It’s the same kind of love, too, that I see at school functions, where Black daddies beam and snap pictures of their children as they sing and present their art and collect their academic certificates for work well done.

Open your eyes at the grocery store, and there is that love, standing over in the fruit section and in the milk aisle, warm and ever-present in the giggles and the “Daddy, can we get that, please?” pleas that tumble from little mouths.

Peek in the barbershops on a Saturday afternoon and that love is sitting on the couch, joking and jonesing and telling stories, with watchful eyes on the little heads getting edged up right.

And it’s ever present in church pews on early Sunday mornings, where, with hands raised, Black fathers praise their God and show their children, by example, how to do so, too.

The loving, caring, dutiful Black father exists. My God, he does. They do. Despite what the Black marriage statistics say. Despite what the prison statistics say. Despite what the child support checks look like. Black fathers are capable and do love and care for their babies. It may not be picture perfect love. It may not always be the way we mothers think Black fathers should show their love.

But it’s love. And it’s there.

It is this on which I choose to meditate on this Father’s Day. As the sun dances across the sky and I take this one day out of 365 to celebrate fathers, I choose to give a little air to humanness and imperfection and a pinch of understanding, then focus—really focus—on how love manifests itself in good Black fathers. Good Black men.

I am a witness.

I know, for sure, I am not the only one.

* * *

Make a point of telling the men who fathered you and the men who nurture your babies that you appreciate them. That you love them. Can’t find the perfect words? No worries—Hallmark’s got you covered with their stunning line of Mahogany Father’s Day greeting cards, which always seem to find the most perfect, authentic words to express yourself to the ones you love and care about. Check out the beautiful Mahogany greeting cards here, as well as the location of stores where you can purchase them.

Happy Father’s Day to the men who love me hard and strong, and whom I love the same.


Mahogany Logo


This post is sponsored by Hallmark. I shared my story here on MyBrownBaby to help the company spread the word about its Mahogany greeting cards. Of course, all opinions are mine.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. All I can say is WOW and Thank you for the gift of those words.

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